The findings have implications for patients taking supplemental folic acid to avoid complications of other pharmacological therapies.
According to the results of a study by UC Davis Health and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, individuals in the United Kingdom who took folic acid were 1.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19 and 2.6 times more likely to contract the disease. to die.
The findings, published in BMJ Openfound that having a prescription for the antifolate drug, methotrexate, mitigated folic acid’s negative impact on COVID-19 when taken together.
“We examined whether the diagnosis and death of COVID-19 were related to the high doses of folic acid, 5 times the safe upper limit, prescribed to patients for various medically approved indications. We found that the risk of becoming infected and dying from COVID-19 was significantly higher in the folic acid-treated group,” Ralph Green, a distinguished professor at the UC Davis Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, said in a statement. .
Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, with low levels being associated with health problems, such as an increased risk of birth defects, heart disease and stroke, the statement said.
Folic acid is prescribed for a variety of problems, including high-risk pregnancies, individuals taking anticonvulsants, and sickle cell disease. It is also known to offset side effects for individuals taking methotrexate.
Methotrexate treats certain types of autoimmune diseases and cancers, but it also interferes with folic acid, which cancer cells need for proliferation.
Researchers analyzed folic acid and methotrexate prescription data between 2019 and 2021 on 380,380 individuals from the UK BioBank, a large biomedical database containing health information on approximately half a million individuals.
They found that 26,033 individuals had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 820 had died from it. Individuals with a prescription for methotrexate were diagnosed with COVID-19 at a similar rate to the general population.
However, researchers found that individuals with a prescription for folic acid were diagnosed at a higher rate at 5.99% and had a much higher COVID-19 death rate at 15.97% than the general population.
“Our findings may have implications for patients taking supplemental folic acid to prevent complications from other pharmacological therapies,” Angelo Gaffo, MD, an associate professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a statement.
“While taking folic acid is clearly indicated in these cases, clinicians should be careful about excessive folic acid intake,” he said. “Of course, our results will have to be replicated.”
Researchers noted limitations of the study, including that the findings were limited to individuals aged 45 and older who are primarily of white European ethnicities.
Another limitation was that the study did not observe the individuals’ serum folate levels, and researchers said further studies are needed to examine the impact of folate status and folic acid intake on susceptibility to COVID-19 infection and related mortality.
Researchers also noted that it is important to avoid extremely high doses of folic acid unless medically indicated.
High folic acid supplementation associated with higher rates of COVID-19 infections and mortality, study finds. news item. Science Daily. August 31, 2022. Accessed September 2, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220831131158.htm